Political Economy

Asif Ali Zardari and his crime of being a politician


Nawaz Sharif is behind bars. Asif Ali Zardari is arrested. The two big guns of the most popular political parties are penalized on corruption charges. It seems the Game of Thrones of Pakistani politics is heading towards its final showdown.

Decision of the opposition parties to make a united front against the government and the players behind the curtain has raised a lot of eyebrows in the establishment. The Iftar party arranged by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) last month refreshed the memories of Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif coming together in London to sign the Charter of Democracy (COD). COD changed the dynamics of Pakistani politics. If PML-N and PPP stays together we are likely to see more arrests of political leaders. Asif Ali Zardari is one of those politicians who could stay in jail without bidding for a deal. His arrest will only make things tougher for the government.      

If only politicians are corrupt then their counterparts who ruled with absolute power and control over country’s resources could have gotten rid of those undesired politicians and created an economically stable and progressive Pakistan.

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. One needs to understand that a politician never enjoys absolute power. This is the reason why civilized world has moved out of the era of dictators and monarchs. Democracy is the best possible solution that we have today. Parliamentary form of government is a system with checks and balances. It is aimed at curtailing the powers of rulers and to make them accountable before the people.

According to general argument, including the rhetoric of PTI, all problems in the country are due to corrupt politicians and that they have never been accounted for in the country’s more than seventy years long history. There is an apparent dichotomy in the argument. If only politicians are corrupt then they could have been lawfully punished by the judiciary. Why Asif Ali Zardari had to spend 11 years of his life in jail without a single conviction?

Life imprisonment is 14 years long. It counts both days and nights that squeezes it down to 7 years. Zardari has spent almost two life sentences in jail. Did he pay the price of being associated with PPP? Was he used as a target to malign Benazir Governments? If allegations are enough to tag someone as corrupt then we don’t need a judicial system. Politicians in Pakistan face media trials that give their verdict of corruption. On the other hand judges of the highest courts find it difficult to convict them. It is important to understand the spirit of justice. It is neither about repute nor about the crime. Justice is about proof and evidence.  

Asif Ali Zardari deserves a lot of appreciation for allowing the parliament to take back its powers through 18th amendment. He could have kept those powers to be one of the most powerful presidents in the history of Pakistan but he chose otherwise. We may not compare him with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto or Benazir but one thing we can certainly say is that he proved himself to be a true torchbearer of the vision of Pakistan Peoples party.